Having been working in various companies on different levels, as a team member, as manager, head of a business area, as founder of my own startup and part of the management team of a rapidly growing company, I’ve witnessed many different teams take shape, fight hard to reach results and with many successes and also sometimes disappointments to follow. I’ve learnt much from my successes but not even nearly as much as I’ve learnt from times when things did not end up as planned. Experience taught me that asking the important question: “Why did this happen?” and “How can I do this better next time?” are crucial for continuously improving yourself as a professional and manager but then indirectly and directly also improving your team and elevating their chances to become successful.
While there are numerous of things one can do to motivate a team, I’ve summarized the 12 most important things in the pointers below. Enjoy.
- Treat people like grown ups, not like children: Be adhere to what a person on your team needs. One of the biggest demotivators there are, is to not listen when someone mention what they expect or would want in place. Correcting someones wish or laugh it off is even more demotivating. You must show respect for every individuals wishes, opinion and wants. Show that you care and rather ask things like: “How important is this to you?”, “If you would have this in place, how would this impact your work?” or “Why do you think this is not in place today?” Don’t point with your hand and expect them to suddenly out of nothing have a deep desire for a goal you made up yourself. See everyone as your equal, not as someone you can boss around. There is always going to be a better outcome of motivation if a person feel listened to and respected.
- Keep Promises: Everytime you make a promise to one in your team see to that you tell a time and date for when you will come back with feedback. Don’t automatically say: “I’ll solve it.” Instead say: “I’ll look into it.” Why? Because you don’t know if you can solve it, do you? And that brings me to the most important of all with a promise: Keep your promises. Deliver on them. Therefore, only promise what you can solve. And within the time you commit to. You as a manager commit as much as any of you team members. You commit to solving shit for your team. And that is super important because if you don’t keep your promises, why should they?
- Set targets together: Some companies are very top-down oriented. It depends largely on the company culture and the ruling “school” of hierarchy. However I’ve always noticed that – no matter which company or culture – the companies who involve everyone in the decision of targets, see a positive effect on the people. A company where the targets are provided from the HQ in Paris or Los Angeles seldom gets the standing ovations. The story around why the targets are as they are might do but the targets in themselves often becomes “the boring must do” rather than “the inspirational horizon”. My advice to everyone here is: Include your people when you decide on the goals. Ask people about their area: “What possible growth can we reach within your area next year?” or “Which challenges do you see preventing great growth within your area and how high can we reach if we defeat those?” What is even more important: People will feel like you take their competence and field of expertise more seriously. Think of it like this: You work all day long with a certain field and then some person comes to you with targets for the coming year; without working with that field himself or even asking you of your reflections and experiences within the field. Imagine that for one second. How does it make you feel? Yes, exactly. That is how you make those people feel as well if you have such a code of conduct about targets. Inclusion is the only way. You need to be a football team. And the captain is playing on the pitch together with his team mates. End of story.
- Not what they can do for you but what you can do for them: Managers often speak about their expectations and what they want people to deliver. Those expectations often involve a lot of hard work for people and in the worst case scenarios there are vague or no story at all of why this is important and how that will benefit anyone but the company’s obvious wish for more profit. That is not going to make it. Period. Turn it around. If you want to motivate your people and you want your team to throw themselves onto their actions with energy and inspiration, then be there for them. Ask them of their expectations on you as their manager. Understand how you can make life easier for them. That is a grand step of becoming a modern leader rather than an old-time boss.
- Action Plan: Involve yourself in the plan of your team and every single individual. Ask them to make a document which they own, with the intention to show the way forward for how to reach the goals. Formulate in the plan why this goal is important and how they impact the company’s main goal. This will ignite a feeling in the individual that they have a purpose and that their work is important for the whole.
- Rewards: Now this is always important. Some employees often say they aren’t interested in bonuses and then refer to money. That might very well be so. But everyone wants something. And if you connect these “carrots” to the action plan as a condition to reach certain milestones and goals in it, the team members will realize that there is something extra there for them. It could be anything relevant to their own certain wishes.
- Belief in your team member: This is something of the most important of all. You need to have a constant belief in your team and that they know what they are doing and will be able to rock it. You need to enter as a mentor and leader whenever needed but that mostly mean you must make your team members brave enough to ask you for help when they want feedback on how to elevate their work, not by you entering to question what they are doing. Try to never fall into the trap of saying things such as: “I knew this would happen.” or “What did I tell you?” These things only tell an individual that they are inferior of competence and in worst case scenario they will lose self confidence. Sometimes they don’t but they might become less intrigued about conversing with you and might not share every detail from that conversation on. The latter a very bad thing for enterprise intellectual growth. Sharing is caring and transparency is key. Always try to act from a position where you show that your trust in every individual is strong: “Why do you think this happened?” or “How would you handle this situation?”
- Invest in people socially: One thing I really noticed makes a difference with people is how you invest in them socially and not only in skills directly related to their work. Ironically employers mostly think of educating their staff within skills for their present job. It is ironic because people tend to change jobs every second year and have perhaps changed into something new as soon as they learnt the basics of a new skill in the first place. Talk about a bad investment. Something that does have a strong impact however and also what companies are generally bad at is to elevate their professional network to people that matter. Identify people in your organization with potential to do even greater things if they only had some connections in various places or access to certain competence and entries at companies. If you happen to know such people then go to lunch together. Think through what you want your team members to get out of the lunch and ask leading questions which opens up the conversations you want happening to unlock that potential. This have a much stronger and faster impact than learning a new functional skill related to a certain role and will be highly appreciated by the employee as well.
- Understand your employees: Don’t do the mistake of handing out rewards or good words in relation to what you yourself think is good or important. Get to know your people and what they desire. Check their LinkedIn-profiles out. Check their Facebook profiles. Do this to get to know them. Ask them what their ambitions are and where they are heading. Rewards should be in line with what every individual regards as relevant to them. It also makes them feel seen and that their professional story matters. Ask them of their experiences and former projects. Ask them what they learnt and if you think there is anything your current team and company could learn from those past experiences. Ask them if they would be willing to help out implementing some of those things which were good. This is a great way to ignite an entrepreneurial spirit where people feel more important and want to share their insights with others.
- Encourage people to grow: Every individual has professional targets. Some wants to learn more. Some wants to become known specialists in their field. Some wants to become famous. Some wants to make managerial career. Some others are interested in learning new skills and some only to participate in interesting projects. No matter these goals, it is important to know about them and understand who is triggered by what. You should encourage a career plan for every individual in your team. Encourage them to reach those targets and talk about how it would transform their lives. Talk about them as people and not the company’s targets. You’ll notice that people are much more able to put in the work when they realize what’s in it for them and it will most surely mean the company’s development gets a big push in the right direction as well.
- Compliment people. Do this a lot. Often. Tell people whenever you notice they do something good. This provides great energy and it will motivate. Be sure you only compliment behaviors you want in the organization however or it becomes contraproductive.
- The Story: Never start out with talking about the goals and the road map of how to get there. Talk about the big picture. Sell the idea of something amazing going on and the window for changing peoples lives forever. Make people see the vast opportunity and that they are part of something unique. The story is what ignites our passion for doing something amazing. That’s just how it goes. The rest such as numbers of how well we are progressing percentage wise is important but it isn’t what makes us go up in the morning. Doing amazing things does however. Your story must have an answer to “Why are we doing this?” It will ignite a feeling of being special and chosen which make people proud. And proud people become more focused, more dedicated and they also say good things when other ask of what they do.
Follow these 12 steps and you will possess a team who is super motivated. Guaranteed!
Thanks for reading,